Rider senior center Jason Thompson might be the best post player nobody has heard about.
The 6-foot-11, 250-pounder is the latest challenge for North Carolina State today at approximately 2:30 p.m. as part of the Old Spice Classic at the Milk House Arena at the Disney World sports complex in Orlando, Fla.
Thompson was the only Division I player last year to average over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. The MAAC defensive player of the year averaged 20.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocks per game last year.
He is already off to a dominant start this year. He had 23 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocked shots in a win over Delaware on Nov. 17, and 20 points, nine boards and seven rejections against Fairleigh Dickinson on Nov. 19. He is averaging 18.7 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots per game after three contests.
NC State coach Sidney Lowe knows enough that he knows centers J.J. Hickson and Ben McCauley will have their hands full trying to guard him and keep him off the boards.
"That big guy in there, he's a load," Lowe said. "They run things for him. We're going to have to defend him and keep him off the boards and make it tough for him."
The Rider game will be the first time the Wolfpack have played since their shocking 65-63 loss to New Orleans on Nov. 18.
Lowe said it's good the players are getting tournament experience where losing has consequences. Being on the road and away from distractions can also be beneficial with a team still trying to mesh.
"They don't have much else to worry about whether it's friends or family," Lowe said. "It's a bonding time and probably good for this team because guys that are new guys along with the veteran guys that are getting to know each other a little bit."
The loss against New Orleans definitely stung, but if T.J. Worley's banked-in 3-pointer had rimmed out and the Wolfpack had won, the game still would have exposed some weaknesses. Lowe wants to see how NCSU responds against Rider.
"That first game will tell me a little bit of where we are now," Lowe said. "It will tell me where we are. Then, I'll have to make some decisions from that point on. Just in terms of how to approach it and our next step going forward that first game."
The rest of the field also consists of host Central Florida, Kansas State, Villanova, George Mason, South Carolina and Penn State.
NC State will play either Penn State or South Carolina at either 10:30 a.m. (in the consolation bracket) or at 12:30 p.m. (in the winner's bracket). Either game would be on ESPN2.
Could a matchup against freshman phenom Michael Beasley and Kansas State be looming, or what about Villanova and former NC State recruiting target Scottie Reynolds, one of the top guards in the country.
Lowe said not so fast on such talk and hopes the team is mature enough to not overlook any opponent, which it should have learned against New Orleans.
"We have to take one game at a time," Lowe said. "They've heard me preach over and over again. It doesn't matter what it looks like on paper, you step on that floor, if you don't play the right way you are going to lose the ball game. We're not looking ahead to anyone, and hopefully our guys aren't. Certainly it happens, but we need to take care of that first one though."
Lowe is more concerned that the Wolfpack do the necessary ingredients that lead to wins, whether it is Rider or No. 1-ranked North Carolina in January. If NC State takes care of business, then it will get its chance to play a marquee opponent Sunday in the title game. If it doesn't, a repeat of the New Orleans loss could take place.
"We can't worry about who we are playing," Lowe said. "We have to compete basically against ourselves, not turning the ball over, box out, execute our plays, keep people in front of us, those are things that we have to do. It doesn't matter who you play, if you don't do those things you are going to lose."
Old Spice Classic — Rider (2-1) vs. NC State (1-1)
Game time: Thursday, Nov. 22, 2 p.m. • The Milk House at Disney World, Orlando, Fla.
PG — 12 Farnold Degand (6-4, Soph., 5.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 assists)
SG — 4 Courtney Fells (6-5, Jr., 6.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.5 apg)
SF — 11 Gavin Grant (6-8, Sr., 12.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.5 apg)
PF — 33 Brandon Costner (6-9, Soph., 10.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 bpg)
C — 1 J.J. Hickson (6-9, Fr., 26.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2 bpg)
PG — 15 Justin Robinson (6-2, Fr., 5.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.7 spg)
SG — 32 Harris Mansell (6-3, Jr., 15.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.7 spg)
SF — 5 Ryan Thompson (6-6, Soph., 14.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 5.3 apg)
PF — 22 Mike Ringgold (6-7, Fr., 7.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.3 apg, 1.3 spg)
C — 1 Jason Thompson (6-11, Sr., 18.7 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 5.0 bpg, 3.0 apg)
Location: Lawrenceville, N.J.
2006-2007 record: 16-15 overall and 9-9 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
2007 postseason: None
Coach: Tommy Dempsey (24-35 overall and at Rider)
The all-time series with NC State: First meeting ever
Rider: Harris Mansell shot 70 of 132 on 3-pointers for 53 percent last year, which would have led the country if he had made 75 or more … Jason Thompson participated at the Pete Newell big man camp last summer, and served as a counselor at the LeBron James Nike Camp and the Amare Stoudemire Nike Camp for post players, attracting the interest of NBA scouts along the way … Ryan Thompson is Jason's younger brother, but is five inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter. He ranked in the top 15 in the MAAC in assists, rebounds and steals last year.
NC State: The last time NC State played on the road for Thanksgiving was 1993 when the Wolfpack played in the Alaska Shootout … NC State is ranked first in the ACC in scoring defense at 56 points per game, field-goal percentage (.325), 3-point field goal defense (.222) and blocked shots (8.0) after two games … NC State has produced 57.4 percent of its points — 74 of 129 — inside the pant, shooting .567 on two-point field goal attempts.